Butter up the market: Why the Global Shea Alliance is on a mission to link Asia beauty brands with producers

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Skin care make-up Africa Shea butter Cosmetics

The Global Shea Alliance (GSA) is aiming to connect cosmetic brands from Asia Pacific directly with the rural producers of shea butter to better the social and economic standings of African women and their families.

The GSA is a non-profit industry association that promotes the use of shea butter in both the beauty and food industries. It supports its more than 600 members from 38 countries, which consists of women cooperatives, brands, suppliers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

The GSA has strong ties in the European and American cosmetics industries. However, it is not as active in the Asia Pacific region, which is something the GSA hopes to change, said regional office manager Nestor Dèhouindji

The trade association was at Cosmoprof Asia 2022 with a group of small businesses dealing in shea butter, including Univers Cosmetiques and S'Fako Nature. Speaking to CosmeticsDesign-Asia​, Dèhouindji said seeking​ out more opportunities in APAC is crucial, as it is a huge market for beauty.

“Asia is a growing market for beauty, and we know that share is a very good ingredient to be used as beauty products. We've conducted a market study last year about market perspective for shea in Asia and we've realised through this market study that the most important market for shea in Asia are Japan, South Korea, and China.”

The association’s mission is to connect cosmetic brands from Asia Pacific directly with the rural producers of shea butter.

“We want them to be able to connect with the direct producers because there are some companies here, maybe they do not have direct access to the produces. They may go through distributors and that will make the ingredient more expensive,”​ said Dèhouindji.

By connecting the brands directly with the rural producers, it will make the shea business more profitable for them.

“Our focus is women empowerment. We want to make sure that whatever we're doing, it provides more income for the women we are working with at the community level. That's why we prefer to have companies who are looking for supplies opportunities to connect directly with these women.”

To find out more about the potential of shea butter in the APAC cosmetics industry, check out the video above.

More precious than gold

The shea tree is indigenous to the savanna belt of Africa. According to the GSA, two billion shea trees found in sub-Sahara African provide a source of income to 16 million women collectors and processors.

Shea collection and processing have traditionally been carried out by women, hence is an extremely important crop that helps to raise the financial independence and social standings of women in these communities.

Dèhouindji emphasised the sheer importance of shea butter to these rural women.

“Shea is the only crop in Africa that is more than 90% owned by women. This shea fruit brings income to rural women. These women use their income from Shea to contribute to household fees, healthcare, and to contribute to school fees.”

“Asia is the market where we are lacking opportunities, if I may say. Compared to Europe, we have less opportunities in Asia, so we want to get more and more opportunities for our members.”

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